In the Contemplative Service this Advent we have been reflecting on finding the Invisible in the Ordinary. When we discussed the topic in out planning meeting, we all felt excited, but over the past few weeks we've all found finding the Invisible in the Ordinary more difficult than anticipated. This kind of reflective work doesn't fit neatly into a 5 minute meditation or a 3 point sermon. It's not the kind of task that you ever feel is finished. It is far easier to remember past experiences and see God in them than to find Him in the present moment and in the mundane.
Last year I found the Invisible in the Ordinary on Christmas Eve over some brussels sprouts.
As I peeled them I was listening to the service of Lessons and Carols from Kings College, Cambridge. I was a service I used to listen to frequently with my Mom, and so as the boy soprano sang the opening strains of Once In Royal David's City I allowed myself to feel my grief once more.
I love to cook a large traditional English Christmas dinner and have friends over, but this year I am taking a road trip instead. I'm excited about travelling, but over the past few weeks I've found myself missing my usual Christmas. I haven't put up decorations at the house and I've felt almost completely bereft of 'Christmas Spirit'. I've given up listening to my Christmas Playlist, and even Handel's Messiah failed to work its usual magic.
It's as if a part of me is saying 'If I can't celebrate Christmas the way I've always done it.....then I'm not going to celebrate at all'
I wasn't really aware of that part of me until I found myself planning to cook brussels sprouts on Christmas Eve this year. I became aware that a part of me wants to recreate last year's experience again, that if I couldn't reconnect to the joy of Christmas maybe I could reconnect to the grief.
I've tried to spend some time wondering why I want to recreate experiences of Christmas past and I don't like the answer that's been rising into consciousness. I'm feeling disconnected to God at the moment. I believe that God is there, but somehow I feel lost in Him - like I'm wandering around a giant castle looking for Him but all I hear is my own voice echoing of the walls. I can see signs that the castle is occupied, but I can't find the occupant.
And so I've wanted to use Christmas traditions to quell the rising panic. I feel like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, trying to desperately hold onto tradition while his world shifts around him.
Melissa spoke last week about how she was learning Holy Spontaneity. I think what I'm learning this Christmas is Holy Flexibility. Learning to look for God in the new, the unexpected, the different. To teach myself that it is ok for Christmas to be different this year, and it is ok for my relationship with God to be different as well. Sometimes we need to let go of who God was, so we can see who God is trying to be...a Messiah in a Manger. A Homeless King. A Crucified Savior.
I may be wandering around a castle in the dark, but there is a light that shines in the darkness. I don't know how the Invisible will appear in the Ordinary this year, but that will not stop me looking.